Sadaf is one of Dubai’s oldest Iranian restaurants. It is also one of Dubai’s least authentic. And that’s because the food it serves has been tweaked to appeal to a more local pallet. This flagship branch on the mezzanine floor of the Rigga Al Butteen Plaza in Deira is where the original (and beloved) @absharrestaurant used to be. I felt hugely nostalgic from the minute I stepped past the confectionary store at the entrance, to when I rode the escalator up, to when I entered the familiar lobby (which is still too small). The buffet is gone but the main dining area is more or less the same; even the small bandstand is still there. So little has changed, in fact, that until the food arrived I could have been at Abshar.
Wanting to try a cross-section of the menu, my food buddies and I ordered a (bone-in) Jujeh Kabab, Koobideh, Khoresh Gheimeh and Khoresh Bamiyeh with both rice and bread. Sadly, Sangak was not available so we had to make do with a Taftoon which looked like it was machine made. As is the tradition with many old school Iranian restaurants, Sadaf serves soup, salad, a plate of fresh herbs (with feta cheese and walnuts) and of course flat bread with each main – amazing value for money. But where authentic Iranian restaurants will serve traditional Barley Soup, Sadaf serves Arabic Lentil Soup. I love lentil soup and enjoyed it with a splash of lemon. To wash it all down, we ordered a jug of salty Doogh.
The jujeh was good; not @sofreh.dubai good, but good (and thankfully not overcooked). The koobideh, however, was not one of the better koobidehs I have had in Dubai. I wouldn’t order it if I went back. The khoresh (stews) were interesting, particularly the bamiyeh. I was relieved to find that lamb (on the bone) was used in both. My companions and I all felt that the food (all the dishes) had a hint of spice heat, indicating that the chef was probably from the south. It also proved my point that Sadaf caters to a more local pallet. Although nothing was bad, nothing except the doogh impressed anyone of us either. If I had to choose a favourite it would be the bamiyeh followed by the jujeh kabab.
Service was friendly and infinitely accommodating. That could have been because there were twice the number of staff than there were customers. We were so impressed with our Indian waiter (from Bangalore) who spoke Persian – how cool is that? Deira is an Iranian restaurant hub of sorts. Some of the greats (both old and new) are still located there, most notable from yesteryear is Shabestan and the current darling of Dubai, Cando – both are a two-minute drive from Sadaf. So, good as the service was and as nostalgic as the old Abshar building made me, I cannot recommend Sadaf as an Iranian restaurant to visit for an authentic, quality Persian-Iranian meal. If in Deira, consider the options I mentioned instead.
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Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on email@example.com.